There seem to be countless ways that criminals can ‘use’ your property for their gain – even going so far as stealing the property from you altogether, as one South London owner found last summer.
You may think it couldn’t happen to you, but since 2009, HM Land Registry has prevented 279 fraudulent applications, involving properties valued in excess of £133,431,543.
However a Freedom of Information request to the Land Registry has shown that there have been 678 claims for property fraud over the last 14 years; indeed, the Land Registry received over twice as many fraud claims as it had prevented since 2009. The total pay-out averaged £107,669 per claim.
Property fraud is big business!
The bottom line in protecting yourself is ensuring that the correct information is held at The Land Registry and it holds your correct correspondence address (i.e. not just that of the property if you are sub-letting).
In addition, its free Property Alert Service will tell you if applications to transfer title are made, in good time for you to object should it be fraudulent or suspect.
Information held with the Land Registry is available to view by anyone through the Land Registry website for a small fee. So, crooks can easily find out who owns a property, their correspondence address, lender details and even samples of their signature.
- Register an anti-fraud restriction on your property title: You can register an Anti-Fraud Restriction with the Land Registry. This means the Land Registry cannot register a sale or mortgage on your property unless a solicitor or conveyancer certifies the application was made by you.
- Register for free anti-fraud property alerts from Land Registry: If someone applies to change the register of your property or if certain activities occur on your monitored property, you will receive an email alert. This will not automatically block any changes made to the register but will alert you allowing you to take any necessary action. More information on the Property Alert service can be found here at the Land Registry website
Bad tenants can also cause you problems. If they have utility bills or documents showing that they live at the property, they can even apply for a new mortgage or loan secured on the property, and if they default the lender will have a charge on your property.
The new loan will have to be registered with the Land Registry, but you may only ever know if either
- the contact address that the Land Registry holds is your correspondence address, not the property address, or
- if you are receiving free email alerts.
If you fall foul of such a fraud, you should be able to sort the mess out eventually, but only after a lot of potential hassle and probably solicitors’ fees. Do consider taking out Legal Expenses Insurance, especially if you plan to sub-let.
Remember, it is up to you to make sure the Land Registry holds the right information! Take a few minutes to check it here now and do sign up for the free alerts.
Vacant or tenanted properties are generally thought to be more vulnerable to fraud, but no-one is immune. Beware and take care.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.